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May 3, 2011

Bruce Marchiano Plays Jesus . . . Again!

Straight-to-DVD film, 'The Encounter,' would've worked better as a Sunday morning skit

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Many plays have been successfully adapted into movies (A Few Good Men, 12 Angry Men), though some are better suited for the stage (Doubt, Sleuth). The Encounter, a direct-to-DVD movie releasing today, feels like it would translate better as a Sunday morning skit or a production at some church-related event.

Part of the problem is the supremely clichéd premise—essentially a redemption story set in an old Twilight Zone episode. On a dark and stormy night (naturally), five travelers take refuge at the Last Chance Diner, where the food is free and the sole proprietor wears a nametag that says “Jesus.”

Is this guy for real? It’s hard to build any mystery considering this is the fifth (!) portrayal of Christ by Bruce Marchiano, best known as “the smiling Jesus” from The Visual Bible: Matthew. But The Encounter is less a supernatural thriller than a drama and modern parable, as Jesus confronts each traveler with their secrets and heartaches.

Teenage Kayla is running away from an abusive father and considering suicide. Melissa (Christian pop star Jaci Velasquez) is a young woman considering an “unequally yoked” marriage. Spineless Hank and spiteful Catherine comprise an annoyingly bickering couple headed for divorce. Smug businessman Nick (wrestler Steve ‘Sting’ Borden) is angry with God over his difficult childhood. Jesus takes turns with each character, politely listening to their anger and fear while challenging them to trust in God’s love.

Like many disappointing play-to-film adaptations, The Encounter feels stagey, set in a single room for most of the movie. The unimaginative story lacks creative direction from Christian producer/director David A. R. White (though there is a somewhat clever surprise toward the end). Still, aside from the amateur characterizations of Hank and Catherine, the acting isn’t half bad. Velasquez does all right with a role that any competent actress could pull off, and Borden actually shows some emotional range and timing. This is ultimately Marchiano’s vehicle, though. Say what you will, but the guy excels at portraying a wise and personable Jesus.

It’s the writing that sets The Encounter apart from lesser Christian movie fare. Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratacjzak (Sarah’s Choice, featuring Rebecca St. James) have devised a thoughtful script that smartly plays both sides of arguments with timely insight, biblical wisdom, and sprinklings of humor. Why does God allow bad things happen to good people? If God loves us so much, why doesn’t he answer our prayers when we need him most? The movie’s answers may not completely satisfy everyone, but it handles the questions well enough to spark discussion.

This is a case where the right script is matched with the wrong production. The Encounter is corny and derivative, for sure, but not unwatchable. It carries the potential for stronger impact on stage, where actors work without a net, a thoughtful script shines, and audiences are more forgiving of a limited production.

Buy the movie here, and watch the trailer below:

Comments

Glad I didn't base watching The Encounter on this CT review. The movie was actually pretty good. Not perfect but not tacky. I thought the review was rather harsh. Good film.

I thought this was actually a great movie...one that I will never forget unlike many blockbusters I have seen.

I agree w/ pastor..review too harsh...wonderful film...kind wish we had a "last chance diner" around here....looking forward to Encounter II.

This film is really a wonderful movie.
All actors make a very good job.
We all like this movie very much.
Alle the best.
E.M.Wiese

I finally admited after 30 yrs I was a prescription medication addict, on the morning of sept 19, 2011. That afternoon a couple hours after this I somehow found the "The Encounter" and even if it wasn't produced as well as some, Bruce Marchiono and the message the director were trying to get across grabbed my heart and I will never forget it, I excepted Christ at the age of 9 but had always had questions like in the movie and I thought Bruce presented this in the most loving and careing way that any man I've ever listened to, I thought Bruce was very reminiscent of Christ, because on sept 19, 2011, GOD used Bruce Marchiano to deliver his message to me and I hope many more people will be touched like myself, by GOD threw his messanger Bruce and Dave White. Thank you

I think the review was really negative and unjust. The movie is good, and I really enjoyed it. Even my 9 year old watched the entire film.

I loved this film! Yes the review was harsh and unjust!

I was just telling a coworker about a great movie I saw that truly spoke to me. Imagine my surprise to read such a nasty review. I highly recommend it and loved it as well!!

There is a reason "Christianity Today" is referred to as "Christianity Astray".

This movie review is just another shining example.

The Encounter seems like a brilliant movie. I'll definitely check this out since you recommended it. Thanks!

It is in reality a great and useful piece of info. I am glad that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

I thought the movie was great! I was really drawn into it and there were times it sent chills through me.

This movie was an answer to my request for a closer walk with Jesus, and, as a sci-fi fan, was an excellent choice for me. At first it seemed a bit slow and hokey, until the moment Jesus shared his formula for the beverage, and from that point on, he had my attention and seemed to speak directly to me. I am so glad his sense of humor as well as all knowing wisdom was portrayed in this film that, by the way, can be viewed by all audiences.

Simply one of the greatest movies I have ever seen---I will buy multiple DVDs and use for personal ministry. POWERFUL!!!

The CT review of this movie is completely in error. I couldn't have watched a more delightful, inspiring, and engaging film. It is insightful as it speaks to the heart, yet has a number of funny moments. Since it is supremely well-done while being Biblically-sound, I recommend it to everyone.

I just happen to view this movie last night with a friend,i have always viewed God as angry and ready to punish but this movie spoke to my heart an put God in a different light for me. i must say in 2012 this is the best movie i have ever seen. i purposely believe that he set this up so could view it. man i am still kind of speechless. Thank you Jesus

I have only seen bits of it but what i saw was really nice and showed me theres many things we dont see in the big picture of our lives and Gods involvement in it

blessings

This is really a awesome movie and totally agree with your comment. Among all the movies I have seen in which God was involved. I think this movie is one of the best. thanks for sharing !

The author mentions that this was originally a play. Does anyone know the title of the play and/or where I can get the script to the stage drama? I am a director of a church drama department and I'd like to do the stage version.
Darla

This movie was a low budget film. But Jesus wasn't rich either. I fought back tears quite a bit. It really made me think about what is important in life. I'm glad it wasn't a big production movie. It hit home. Who hasn't had a tough childhood? Or wanted to be a rich sports player? Or hoped for a great relationship? I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone that is a down to earth person with real integrity.

The review is completely negative! The first time I saw the movie I had to do nothing but repeat it again and again, when ever a friend comes home I invite him to see the movie, it has become my Number 1 movie, powerful message very attractive, it keeps the values in Jesus' messages in the bible! We need more movies like this! Well done Marchiano and the rest of the actors and the author!

Wow! The only thing more inspiring than the movie, is the beautifully consistent responses i have read so far. God Bless the entire cast and crew - and the guys who put up the money!!! to produce this wonderful film. The CT review must have been written by a non believer not to have felt/understood the personal gift of Jesus being offered/explained in a relate-able and loving way directly to each and everyone of us (in our own way). So profoundly touched. Nice to watch something that leaves you with loving thoughts instead of scary or disturbing.

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